Chris' Special Tie Knot

Chris' Special Tie Knot

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Easter in Trencin, Slovakia

Springtime in Trencin

Hey all, so the past week has just been a blast, let me tell you a little about it. So first off, it's starting to just be BEAUTIFUL outside. All these trees that just bugged me in the winter because of how black and ugly they were are turning out to have just gorgeous pink and purple blossoms all over them, it's awesome! Also, I think I see a metaphor in that last sentence. Dang it...But anyway, Let's talk for a sec about the Slovak Easter, they have some pretty off-the-heezy traditions that I TOTALLY want to get into when I get home, here are just a few of them:

1. First of all, Easter lasts a week here. Like not the whole, "Oh, this is big Saturday, or green Friday, or whatever else people celebrate for that week," It's EASTER all week. They call it Velkanoc, which translates as big night, which is kind of weird for me because the only record we have of a big night happening at any point in history is in the Book of Mormon...0_o...

Velkunocna baba--a traditional Easter meal
2. On Saturday morning is when the first of the festivities start, everyone is supposed to decorate their trees with painted eggs and ribbons and stuff until it's all completely gic, just great. That night, they also make this special dish called Velkunocna baba, which I went and learned how to make with a member. It's basically potatoes, eggs, bread, sausage, and parsley with some special water you put on it before you bake it that had onions and garlic and beans soaking in it for a while. It's WAY good, haha.

Easter meal with a Slovakian church member
3. Sunday is the day everyone sits around and enjoys each other's company, and so of course we had a great Easter program at church, we watched Nachadzanie viery v Krista, which is just classic. It reminds me a lot of every Sunday back home with my sister. Then our neighbor upstairs invited us over and said she wanted to be our Slovak grandma because she's lonely and we're 2 nice, polite young American boys, so she cooked us this wonderful lunch and talked with us for a while, it was wonderful, and then for dinner, we got invited over to a member's house. She is just a little angel, I have no doubt she's going straight to heaven when she dies, and I don't care where I am in the world, I want to be there at her funeral. She always makes the Elders eat a TON of food though, so that was pretty hard, especially considering we had had that big lunch only like 2 hours before she invited us over...But the tradition is just sit around and be lazy unless you have guests.

Meal number two on Easter
4. This is the cool one, on Monday morning, all the men in Slovakia have prepared these special little whips called korbaciky, and they go on what they call "Easter visits," where they run into somebody's house, find the women, and whip them with the thing and pour water on them. Obviously they don't whip them hard--that's mean. It's just supposed to be a symbolic thing. But here's the cool part. After they get whipped, the women are supposed to give the men chocolate and eggs and if they don't have those, money! It's awesome! And before all you feminists back home start getting indignant, the women get to do the same thing back to the men on Tuesday, no worries.

So this past week, we've just been relishing the culture. Our investigators are doing ok, it's really difficult to get people to church here, but we got one investigator to come to church, and also several less-actives we've been working with were able to come, but not one lady we've been teaching. I'm starting to be really worried about her. She's having more and more doctor's appointments, but it doesn't seem like she's getting any better. Keep her in your prayers so she can be baptized. Another investigator doesn't want to stop drinking and smoking, even though he hardly does it anyway, and whenever he does, he feels SUPER guilty, but he's not drinking coffee anymore, so we're making steps. We have a new investigator who says he's an aetheist, but it's really cool. He taught us God's entire plan for us in perfect sequence, almost word for word, having never met missionaries before or heard of Mormons. He just used a little bit different vocabulary. For example, instead of saying that God created us, he said we are a genetic experiment of an extra-terrestrial. The cool thing is he believes that the genetic experiment is for US, not for God (he calls God 'Frankie'), so that we could see if we were able to follow our "codex" or inner rule-book, which our creator imbedded in our subconscious. SO cool, I'm really excited to keep teaching him, and he speaks the 2nd best English of any Slovak I've heard, and he learned just from listening to American music like Red hot Chili Peppers and the Beatles, he's just awesome.

Trencin, Slovakia
I love you all so much! I have a lot more time to write, but I really have no idea what to say., I put in my lasagna tomato sauce, which I make, I use basil and bay leaves and oregano, and romano cheese, it's pretty good, and I found this place where I can get some meat that's really close to beef (I'm scared to ask what it actually is, but it's way good), and then I use these 2 kinds of cheese that you won't be able to get in America because it's illegal to sell unpasteurized milk products there, but Edaim and Bryndza, and yeah, it is pretty fabulous. My companions so far have all been really really grateful that I know how to cook, especially things like pizza and that french toast. I also figured out how to make Pirohy, I'll have to send a picture sometime, they're like ravioli, but you make it from potatoes and you can put stuff inside, it's way good. I swear, if anybody ever asks me what I did on my mission, I'm just going to say, "dishes." I do SO many dishes, just because I don't really mind hand-washing things anymore...weird, huh? Tell the future missionaries in my ward back home I'm so proud of them. I can't wait for those guys to get out into the field, they're just going to love it. And to my brother, you're going to love going on a mission someday, I can just see it. Does anyone know how a missionary in Tonga is doing, he won't respond so my emails. Anyway, Love you lots again, I hope you feel that every day.

Lubim t'a, Zelam vam vsetko najlepsie,

Elder Chris Brousseau

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Birthday Gifts!

1st Counselor in the Branch Presidency

Hey all, just winding up wondering how every week here except the ones I don't like seem to go by SUPER fast. I'm so happy to be able to continue being in Trencin now that I have a chance to explore it all here! My companion has been out for 2 months longer than me, so we're both just barely out of training, and our Slovak and Czech has already started to drastically improve being together because we were both really good coming into the transfer, and I'm really excited to continue feeling that improvement. He is exactly the kind of missionary I love serving with. He's hard-working like I am, he loves music, he's not scared of telling me his opinions, he doesn't give the flipping silent treatment, and he wants to explore the city as much as I do. Try new ideas like going tracting with a survey in parts that I still haven't seen? He's ready and raring to go. I really like President McConkie's idea here as well. He figures if he splits the work, e.g. I'm the head of the church (1st Counselor in the Branch Presidency), my companion's the head of the district (DL), then we will both be less stressed and able to get more done. So far, he's exactly right. Honestly, I'm still not looking forward at all to having to be a district or zone leader, and I'm grateful that so far that opportunity hasn't fallen on my shoulders, but I'm starting to look at the idea of training (especially follow-up) with a little less harsh view. All of my companions so far have told me they wish that I had trained them, so maybe that's a sign.

Playing antique pianos--we miss his music at home!
As far as this week goes, our numbers weren't too good because we have been getting so many activities ready for the coming transfer. Napriklad, we have a concert in TWO days!!! AAAAHHH! I'm SO not ready, especially for all the new songs, and I'm probably going to be taking a lot of time today and tomorrow to practice and get ready for that. But tonight we also have an idea from the Sisters that I like and we're trying. We've noticed that when new people come to watch conference, they're not sure what to expect and they kind of get overwhelmed by 2 hours of crazy spirit filled wonderfulness, so we decided to try something new. We handed out a MILLION fliers this last week for a sort of, Come-find-out-what-we-actually-believe-because-those-DVD's-the-J~Dubs-pass-out-are-super-rough-and-there's-nothing-even-close-to-right-on-them night. 


So chic!
Speaking of conference, just want to tell everyone, if you didn't watch it, you get up off your couch and go give that thing a hard look, there wasn't a single word said out of place, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, EVEN during Richard G. Scott's talk, which is surprising because I think he could make a KILLING charging to read bed-time stories. I've got myself a new favorite speaker now too, this is coming since the MTC: Russell M. Nelson, Holy quotable! His talk on truth POUNDED something I've been thinking for years: that religion and science shouldn't be enemies in any sense of the word, they both describe truth and the only way to excel in either is through revelation. Just google the cotton gin and find out how that guy finally figured it out. My favorite talk during conference was President Uchtdorf on gratitude. That really hit home for every Slovak missionary as we've just had a recent convert get her records removed from the church. She was baptized here in Trencin in December, but she got into a discussion with a member about some really really deep, controversial doctrine, and decided that she never had a testimony and refused to let her children be baptized, and removed her records. The antidote for grief is gratitude. The antidote for fear is faith. The antidote for pride is simplicity. This conference gave us every answer we needed as a mission to continue in faith and to get work done. I am so grateful that we have prophets on the Earth. Real. Living. Prophets. It's just an added bonus that they don't seclude themselves in some cave because everyone is trying to kill them.

Birthday packages!
I love this gospel so much. We should be baptizing one investigator either on this Saturday or next, and another investigator is working toward May 10th. I am so grateful to be a part in these investigators conversion processes, and I can't wait to share happy news with you in the (very) near future. 

Even the sister missionaries were captivated by the haul.
As for right now, I got 2 packages delivered to me by angels from Prague, and I am very happy to announce that I have REAL AMERICAN FOOD!!! Haha, oh my GOSH, everything was so PERFECT! I got some TIES, and some MAC and FLIPPING cheese. I unwrapped some BEEF. I got some MAPLE SYRUP oh, and you have to be careful with Mapleine. If you haven't heard how Bill Cosby talks in the beginning of his chocolate cake for breakfast routine, go listen to it, because that's how I'm talking in my head writing this. I was astounded by how much joy can come to missionaries with just some noodles and boullion in a package. You know if anything my mission so far has really increased my patriotism, America is just amazing, it could use a little clean-up in the politics area and the "whose-country-are-we-going-to-save-from-communism" area and the "tell-its-people-everything-it's-doing" area, but otherwise it's fantastic and I'm blessed to be a part of such a great nation. I love you all, and I want to throw a shout-out to my uncle, thanks for your email, haha, to my cousin, really got me good, huh? And to her again, WHAT THE FLIP WERE YOU THINKING?!? Rats, you got me good. And Thank you so much to Grandma and Grandpa, leave it to my grandparents to just see a need and fill it. I had the best French Toast ever last night because of you two, thank you thank you thank you SO much. And thank you also to my aunt's family, your prayers are felt every day, I'm excited to use your present for a finding technique I have (Teenagers here really love American gum, but they don't sell it here). Thank you also to another aunt's family, I don't remember if I thanked you already, but your advice about the soccer players got us a new investigator, so thank you so much, I'm really grateful, and so is the Lord.

Milujem t'a tak vel'a,

Elder Chris Brousseau

Have you ever seen anyone so happy to eat mac & cheese??!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy birthday, Elder Brousseau!

Beautiful hike in Slovakia

Hey so first off, it's my B~Day tomorrow! Jééééj...Lol. I don't think it's very fair considering I've pretty much forgotten everyone else's birthdays while I've been gone, so I'm working to make sure we don't celebrate at all, because basically the Sisters haven't been able to get out of me when my birthday actually IS, and I just got a new companion, so that's no prob. I'll celebrate on a day when we're not working. Beyond that, big news. So on Monday last week, we didn't really do anything, but TUESDAY... Haha, that was the Sister's year mark, and boy did we celebrate. We went to the Hotel Alžbeta for district luch, and I spent 30 Euros on my plate!!! We saved up for it all transfer so that it wouldn't mess with our weekly shopping, and haha, I'm so grateful that we did, because afterwards we were able to have a really successful day, and that was just the icing on the cake.
Sr. Missionaries in Trencin, Slovakia

The Kebab man
Wednesday: We went on a vylet with a guy who works at my favorite Kebab stand. He took us to a couple of castles where we learned about the lady who has the world records as the biggest serial killer of all time, it was nuts, but the important part is that we were able to really just talk with him, and he's such a cool guy. He's been all over the world, places like Nepal and New Zealand, and basically the philosophies he's gained from staying in tiny villages and just working with people his whole life are basic doctrines of our church, for example: don't push anyone into anything they don't want to do, all you can do is invite, everyone has their agency. On top of that, he invited his friend to come and meet with us afterwards, which went great, and she is VERY friendly, oh my goodness. Within 5 seconds of meeting me, she kissed me, I was NOT expecting that and I almost flipped out, but I just held it and said that she shouldn't do that because I'm a missionary. Anyway, that's my surprising announcement of the week, on a better note, I'm getting a haircut from her tomorrow, and I'm hoping she'll become a new investigator.
A sister teaching wreath weaving

Thursday we went up to a member sister's house, the one who's teaching us how to make the baskets out of newspapers. She lives in the Czech republic, it was really cool, and she has such a strong testimony, I can hardly describe it, suffice it to say, she doesn't have a lot of money, but she bought an old car, and drives about a half hour to church every Sunday, crossing the border between the countries. Awesome lady.

Acting Branch President Brousseau
Friday We got ready for general conference. No, I haven't seen it yet, we'll be watching it this week because it's not translated into Slovak yet. I heard there was supposed to be some big announcement that happened. Suffice it to say, they no longer send us DVD's so I'm in charge of making the dvd's for conference for our branch. Other big news, for about 2 weeks, I'm serving as Branch President in Trencin, how weird is that?

My new companion from Cedar City
Saturday was transfers. My former companion is now serving in Kosice, and I have a new companion who came just a few hours ago. He's from Cedar City, and he's pretty cool. I'm excited to serve with him. That's everything I can think of right now. One of the sisters in the branch confessed to us yesterday that she now feels ready to start working on her testimony again, and honestly, I'm so grateful and excited for her, she really is a saint. We're going to continue working with our investigators, and I would be surprised genuinely if we saw less than 2 baptisms this transfer, we are in a wonderful position with our investigators.

I love you all, thank you for the Birthday wishes, they mean the world to me!

Elder Chris Brousseau

Sister haircuts and Easter Wreaths

Chris' first Easter Wreath

My New Haircut
Here's to another good week in Slovakia! So, first things first, right after I emailed last week, myself and my companion got invited to a relief society activity where we learned how to make easter wreaths and baskets out of newspaper! It was awesome, and not super hard, and even better, it turns out looking crazy awesome, even I was surprised, I'm definitely gonna do that at some point when I come home, and best news of all, one sister stepped down and let sister another sister lead the activity!!! Progress has been made, hearts have been softened, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups have been eaten. After the activity as well, another sister cut my hair! It was the first haircut she's ever given in her life, but it wasn't half bad. It wasn't anywhere NEAR as good as one from a sister in my ward back home, but I don't know how you'd ever beat that, haha.

Chris accompanying the sister missionaries
Anyway, things are going pretty well, we haven't really had anything scary happen this week other than there's a circus that's coming into Trencin that has really weird posters called Cirkus Aleš, it's just weird. On the bright side, more people are outside now that it's getting warmer and the ice cream stands are open. BTW, the ice cream here is just out of this world, I can't believe how good it is, it doesn't even matter what flavor you get either. We're probably going to go broke in the summer because of the ice cream stands...On the down-side, not very many people have expressed any interest in anything, in fact, it constantly seems like people are listening less. For example, last night, I contacted a man and said, Hi, we're American and we want to understand Slovaks better, would you be willing to answer a question for me? Because I was wondering what in the world the difference is between the like 5 different words they use that all mean "normally", and the dude stopped for a second, turned around, and said, I'm Catholic, I was born catholic and I will die Catholic. I said, ok, well I'm still American and I have a quick question about slovak, could you tell me what the difference is between the words, obyčajne, obvykle, bežne, and normalne is? And he said Let's just leave it how it is, you have your own belief and I have my own belief. I said, did you not hear me right? And he just walked away. I was not happy the rest of the way home.

Haha, So a sister in the branch has taken it upon herself to make sure that we're prepared for getting out of the house and living on our own by teaching us how to make all sorts of Slovak recipes, it's absolutely wonderful, but I don't know how good it will be in America, maybe I should just go home for a couple of days and then come back here to live. Anyway, We've been making a lot of progress with her, AND with her new husband! He is an atheist who served in the army here, and oh boy does he have some stories that he's not afraid to share. I've been learning ALL sorts of new vocabulary from him too, because we haven't really talked to anyone on the street about things like shotguns and calibers and things like that, which is nice. But the progress is, they love being with us and talking with us about everything, and they're getting more comfortable, without us even saying anything, with the idea of coming to church, in fact, they're both planning on coming and watching General Conference, which I am SO excited for, and also, they're planning on travelling WITH the missionaries to our next District Conference in Brno. I am so ecstatic to see them coming closer to the church.

Our investigators are doing well, although, I was very disappointed when, after meeting with all of them and committing all of them to come to church, that only one man showed up. That poor dude, he feels all alone at church, if we could get all of our investigators to show up at the same time, they would just all love each other and get baptized on the spot I swear. So that's what I'm going to be working on really hard this week is getting investigators to church, I'll let you know how that goes. Revelation through Church Attendance is an important thing, or so I hear.

Slovak Concert
In other news, I got to go to another Opera with a sister in the branch this week, this one was a children's performance about Easter, it was super cool. The kids here are really talented, but most of them you can tell are only that talented because they're pushed so hard, like this one little girl was just pouting the whole time on stage while she played her violin. She didn't miss a note, and everything was memorized, but you could just tell that she wasn't happy at all. It made me kinda sad, but I'm thinking I like Slovak operas, minus the singing, that bugs me.

Love you all lots,

Starší Chris Brousseau